“WALA KAMING ganiyang intension… Ang aming call is call to prayer… Nakalagay, nakasaad na it’s a call to prayer.“
So clarified Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo Monday after the long-silent presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo found his voice again, if only to criticized the pastoral letter of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines that deplored the government’s “pattern of intimidation,” calling it a violation of the separation of the Church and the Stateprovision in the Constitution.
“Hahamunin namin sila… Kung it violates, sila na ngayon ang magkaso sa amin,” Pabillo dared in an online press conference. “Don’t we really have a right to speak sa kakulangan ng pamahalaan? Dahil ba kami ay simbahan hindi na kami puwede magsalita?”
In its “Pastoral Letter and Call to Prayer” dated July 16, the CBCP deplored wat it called the “bleak political landscape” and expressed it was “still in disbelief” at how the government prioritized the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, instead of stemming the spread of global pandemic in the country.
“The dissenting voices were strong but they remained unheeded. None of the serious concerns that they expressed about this legislative measure seemed to be of any consequence to them,” the letter read.
Pabillo said that the Church does not intend to sow divisiveness among Filipinos.
It was all but an exercise of the inherent right of every Filipino to freedom of speech.
“It is very clear that priests and bishops, as citizens of the country, have the right to freedom of speech,” Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, declared in the same virtual presser.
“If he (Panelo) is saying that the Constitution prohibits citizens from commenting against the government, then he is totally wrong,” Monsod said.
In an earlier statement CBCP spokesperson Fr. Jerome Secillano did his take on the issue, thus: “From a legal understanding of the Constitutional provision, it means that the State is not actually going to put up an official religion and secondly that state fund should not be used to fund a particular religion… It doesn’t actually bar Church leaders [from] expressing their political opinions.”
Warned he: “If the Church does not anymore speak about all these matters and there are wrongs being committed left and right, then we cease to exist as a Church.“
Then – contrary to the declaration of Jesus Christ Himself at its founding – the gates of hell would have prevailed against it.
And that is not, will not, and cannot be the Church.